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Pumped to play the Champions Trophy: Shikhar

Opening batsman believes national call up is a reward for impressive white ball performances
Shikhar Dhawan of India pulls a delivery towards the boundary during the 4th One Day International ( ODI ) match between England and India held at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham, England on the 2nd September 2014

Photo by Shaun Roy / SPORTZPICS/ BCCI

By the looks of how the Mumbai Indians went about their innings, it looked like the pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad was a difficult surface to bat on. It was a classy yet labored innings from Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma who brought up a more than handy 67. Fast forward to Sunrisers’ chase and it looked a cake walk. Playing in their own backyard, they played like they knew the conditions by the back of their hand and showed up as if they owned it.

Taking center stage was Shikhar Dhawan & Moises Henriques who put up a 91-run stand to take their side to a comfortable position in the run-chase especially after David Warner’s early dismissal. There weren’t any fancy shots, not brutal hitting of the cricket ball, just an old fashioned run-chase on display. That strike-rotation, those nudges and occasional attacking shots to keep the scoreboard on check were all ticked off boxes in a pressure-less successful run-chase. Henriques got out on 44, but Shikhar Dhawan carried on the good work with a match-winning half century.

On the day when his name was drafted into the ICC Champions Trophy squad set to start next month, Shikhar justified his selection showing that his white ball prowess was still very much alive. Here’s Dhawan reflecting on his match-winning knock, his Champions Trophy call up and why he can’t wait to get back to the India Blues.

Unbeaten in a match-winning knock, taking Sunrisers yet another step closer to the Qualifiers. Should be a satisfying feeling?

It is a great feeling to play a match-winning knock. I really enjoyed my batting and I believe I played with a lot of maturity and responsibility. I knew David Warner had got out and Yuvraj Singh was injured. The onus was on me to take the team through and I am happy I finished the game for the team. The partnership between Henriques and myself was really important and I guess we won it because of that.

You are an attacking batsman, but tonight it was a calm and composed innings. What are the kind of changes you had to make during your knock?

I had to change my game a bit. I decided to negate the risk factor in the first six overs. Usually it is Warner and me who accelerate from both ends and cash in on the powerplay. But after Warner’s dismissal I had to cut down on shots and make sure I didn’t give away my wicket. We knew the target was not that daunting and we could catch up later. So I played along and picked runs according to the merit of the ball. I am an attacking batsman but it wasn’t difficult to change my mindset and get into a less attacking game mode. I am used to it and I believe I have attained that control over my game with time and age. I know what needs to be done under a given situation.

You have not enjoyed a great run in Test matches, but is it different when you play the white ball? How difficult is to put those Test performances behind and focus on the shorter formats?

I know I didn’t have a great Test season, but going into the IPL I was relaxed. I didn’t want to chase a tournament and play and work towards it. I knew I was doing my process well even when I wasn’t going through the best of times in Tests. I have not been amongst the runs for a long time now but I can’t let such things affect me. My hard work, dedication and love towards the game never diminished and I persisted with my processes. I was in good touch getting into the IPL with some good scores in the Deodhar Trophy and that gave me confidence going into the IPL. When the IPL started, I did get some decent scores and I wanted to stretch that good form going forward. I want this patch to continue going into the Champions Trophy as well.

You were named in the squad for the Champions Trophy. Obviously good to be back playing in national colours?

I was obviously happy to see my name in the India squad for the Champions Trophy but more than that I felt it was a reward for my performances in the shorter formats and in the ongoing IPL. If I keep performing well, I believe those performances won’t be ignored. I want to perform and keep playing for India as long as I can. I am pumped up to play the Champions Trophy. I have some good memories of the tournament and I had a great one the last time we played there. But as of now I want to focus on the IPL and then switch to the preparations for the Champions Trophy. We will try to bring home the Champions Trophy.

Anand Subramaniam

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About a Chinaman made in India

Kuldeep Yadav on his dream debut, run of emotions and that meeting with Virat Kohli on the boundary ropes

You could hear Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box talking about the origin of the word ‘Chinaman’. Kuldeep Yadav had just about begun bowling in his debut Test and he was already creating quite a flutter, not just on the field, but also off it. Before all the fairytale began and Kuldeep ended up with what he claimed to be a ‘dream debut’, it was not too long ago in the morning that he had received his Test cap.

A reception in the huddle amidst smiles and applause and a moment of emotion for young Kuldeep who later said had a sleepless night on Test match eve. “To be honest, when I got to know yesterday that I was going to be playing my first Test, I was nervous and had a sleepless night,” Kuldeep told BCCI.TV. “I was bound to have butterflies in my stomach since it was time for my debut that too in whites. There was nervousness and excitement when I received my Test cap this morning and that was a dream come true moment for me. To come out and put up such a telling performance on my debut was like an icing on the cake. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

The run of emotions were to continue when Kuldeep walked out to bowl before Lunch. He would have to wait for his first wicket post Lunch but the moment he got David Warner nick one to get caught at slips, there was a leap in the air and a double fist pump, a look towards the sky and a gentle embrace to his teammates.

“It was an emotional moment for me to take my maiden wicket. I had dreamt about this moment since childhood, since the time I started playing cricket. I won’t forget that moment. What was more enjoyable was the fact that the team needed a breakthrough badly at that time. I was glad I could help and contribute to the team’s cause. After that, my confidence levels went up and the nervousness that I felt in the morning went off. I thoroughly enjoyed bowling today.”

What was even more interesting to see was Virat Kohli doing his twelfth man duties diligently. Out came the drinks and a rush to the boundary ropes to give young Kuldeep a pat on the back and a quick drink. For Kuldeep that gesture from the captain, proved to be a motivation to go ahead and do well in the rest of the innings.

“After taking my first wicket, Virat bhai came to the boundary ropes and congratulated me. He told me I was bowling well and motivated me to do well further. In the dressing room during Lunch, we had devised plans for each batsman and Kohli was reminding me of those plans at the boundary ropes asking me to stick to the plans and continue bowling well.

“He has been motivating me throughout the season be it in the nets or when I have not been included in the playing eleven. As a youngster, your captain coming to you and motivating you does help and boosts your confidence.”

Thing took a U-turn post Lunch. Australia had dominated the first session scoring at close to five runs an over with the loss of just one wicket. Kuldeep walked in to bowl and turned the tide in India’s favour with some disciplined bowling keeping the Australia batsmen on their toes. Some deliveries went in, while the others went out and at times there would be that odd flipper – an art he discussed with Shane Warne  Brushing shoulders with 1300+ wickets after the end of the 1st Test in Pune.

“It was a very good wicket to bat on and it didn’t have much turn or bounce for the bowlers. I just wanted to stick to a disciplined line,” Kuldeep said.“I believe Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb’s wickets were very important given the circumstances. Both wickets were good and both had variations in them. I got one wicket off a typical chinaman delivery and the other on a wrong ‘un. All wickets were important for me and it is a feeling I cannot express at the moment.”

With a 4-wicket haul to his name, India wrapped up Australia for 300. Kuldeep led the team back to the dressing room and was greeted with pats on his back. After stumps, his phone wouldn’t stop ringing, congratulatory texts were pouring in his inbox and he was surprised to see social media go bonkers about his performance. He sat in a couch inside the dressing room, with the phone in his hand and he had yet another task cut out.

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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